Monday, June 19, 2006

A is for Apple

I finally got off my lazy butt and started working with Umberto on his letter sounds. He's not really thrilled but we managed to have a good time. I drew a huge A on a piece of poster paper, and we looked in magazines for pictures of things that began with A. We drew a few things, and we put up a picture of my brother Adam. I'm sure he'll be thrilled when I tell him. What was really neat though is that after I wrote the word for each picture Umberto insisted that he copy the words himself. It's the first indication he's shown towards writing.

Umberto's always been one of those kids who make dramatic leaps. We always despaired as the milestone timelines came up, and he didn't do anything he was supposed to. He rolled at six months, walked at 16 months, talked at three and a half, etc. Reading is turning out to be the same. One day he hated books, refused to learn his letters, and now he's determined to read and to write. No pushing from us either...In fact he's had to push US to get going. It's amazing.

Of course the girls were not to be left out of the fun. Camille used the stickers her grandpa had sent for her birthday...

Look Ma, using my hands.

And Piper...Well Piper discovered that paint does not taste as good as it looks...

And finally, it great to see the empowered Umberto again. I missed that energy and that total confidence that infused him. School really sucked that out of him. It was heartbreaking to listen to him call himself stupid. He didn't have any faith in his ability to learn. Now he's confident of his own smarts. Once again I see the boy who has total faith in himself.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reading Hell

Umberto decided he wants to learn to read. Finally. We're not sure what brought this on but one day it was all about reading books. Of course this was until we got down to the serious work of actually learning to read.

Learning to read is just hell, and it's hammered home an important aspect of learning for us. Those steps that lead us to the pleasure are not always pleasurable. My biggest hang up with unschooling is this idea that life is always interesting and...I don't That's not really the right word but it's the best I can come up with right now. Reality is that life is often repetitive and tedious. And the intermediate places between not being able to do something and being able to do something is especially tedious. The pleasure of mastery of comes after the long hard road of learning to master.

So we begin the reading process. What sound does A make? And so on... We're working on making this learning fun. Games, letter books, and other various schemes fill our lives right now. Umberto is game, and though slightly resistant to the whole process is able to see the long term goal. He wants to read comic books so he's trying hard to get through the bog of phonics and sight words.

What he's really learning though is presserverance. In life even the things we love and want to do are often tedious. I do not love being a mother, a wife, a graduate student everyday but I push through because the shining moments of pleasure are worth the dull depths of numbing apathy. And really there is a wonderful feeling of working hard to achieve mastery in anything. There is a bittersweet pleasure in looking back over the road one took to reach their goal. Umberto knows this. In the car last night as we go over his letter sounds, he turned it into a game on his own where he taught Horacio and I. He asked us what sounds went with words and then made up silly questions about the words. He knows that the road is tough but that we can laugh as we move along. He's working hard to get those comic books.